Sunday, August 30, 2015

About the Advantage Die

I had the chance to review some comments about the Advantage Die used in and I wanted to share some thoughts about this specific mechanic. Somehow, this is also connected with the Spirit counter mechanics.
In a few words: the Advantage Die is incremented during the game by some successful moves (usually on a 10+, sometimes on a 7-9), and the same happens to Spirit (increased by certain moves on 10+ or 7-9). Both are “good” for the characters when they have high values: the Advantage Die can be used to replace any die that rolled low, and Spirit can become problematic especially if getting to a negative score.
Both of them are somehow a measure of how well things are going for the given character.

Now, in terms of design, an epic RPG telling the story of a group of heroes, would reverse this mechanic.
If we’re aiming for powerful characters — with solid chances of defeating any type of opponent and with some sort of “balancing” power against unfavorable twists in the story — then I’d say give +1 to the Advantage Die on a 6-, and give +1 to Spirit when the character suffers some setback (bad outcomes) in certain moves.
This would basically create a mechanical counterbalance for failure.
The reward for success (let’s say 10+) would be the fictional result of the success itself, while the consolation prize for a 6- would be a +1 to the Advantage Die - that would allow the player perhaps later on to break out from a series of bad rolls by using indeed a high Advantage Die.
This is all nice and cool.
Actually, if anyone wants to give it a try, please do! and let us know how it went.

But City of Judas is something different. It aims to create a different fiction.
It gives certain rewards (i.e. the +1 to the Advantage Die or to Spirit) as additional prize for certain successes, inline with the spirit of each playbook. It does so to make certain actions, certain successes, to bear even more weight in fiction — so that we see the ripple-effect of these positive consequences even later on.
When players roll a 6-, on the other hand, City of Judas can be quite harsh. In combat, and in general when it comes to harm, City of Judas can be deadly. Should be deadly.
A single 6- won’t kill a character, but a few of them, against a powerful opponent, would do it. This is by design.

I think you can see now why — since I wanted to depict a harsh and dark-fantasy world — there is no “consolation prize” for failure. The prize of failure has to paid by the character, and the rules offer no compensation for it.

You can go ahead and comment on the original G+ post here.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Some questions about the combat system

Gregory had some interesting questions about the combat system and how to deal with danger. You can see the original G+ post here.

How do you deal with damage regarding to the fiction?
For example, in one of my previous adventure (the second session actually), my characters were facing a huge Roc bird. So during one of the assaults, one of them ended up being pounded to the ground by the monster beating up his shield. In terms of pure mechanical damage, I think he got only like 1 health point less (so he was still in positive at the time), so hence my question : do you think that in this case particularly, we can assume that even if the damages weren’t enough he could receive the Unstable condition nonetheless to respect the fiction? The Roc was really massive and I described how he could rip apart sheeps and cows like butter so hitting very hard somebody even with a shield at his arm would be enough to save his life for sure but maybe not enough to let him get away with just a fleshwound? I was thinking of giving him the condition but only temporarily as his arm will get numb for having blocked such powerful blows, meaning it will be gone either after the fight or as soon as natural healing will begin.
I ask this because quite recently I came across an article for DW entitled injuries are not just hit points gone (or something like that) describing the kind of situation as above. So I know COJ is not DW but was wondering if any of you had to deal with the same kind of situation??

You can see the full discussion on the original thread; but here is the core of my answer. First of all, an explanation about why sometimes a little bit of numbers is useful at better understanding each other. Yes, we’re telling a story and descriptions are important, but then we need a score or something to make sure we’re on the same page:

While I am not a big fan of hit points myself (and you can see it in the game - there is damage and armor, but hit points are actually modifiers for moves, thus a different outcome can be expected from the same numbers), I do believe that there must be a numerical representation that tells you and the player how bad is this thing that just happened.
Role playing is a conversation: there’s space for disagreement, confusion, misunderstanding.
As a GM, I can tell you you’re down while the Roc pounds your shield. In your mental space, you’re some fu***ng bastard who will just cut the neck of the bird with a single swing of the sword. In my mental image, as GM, you’re in awful situation.
My description can take it only so far; yes, after a while we might attune and get on the same level. This is why numbers help (don’t solve, but help). At least, in my opinion.

And then getting a bit into details about which moves to use in combat – and specifically, not just Engage in Battle, but also Face Danger and Face Death:

Now, there is a lot to say about harm (consider also this - maybe we can discuss it in another post: when you suffer harm, you roll + Health; when you start getting 7-9s and especially 6- things get messy… here is where I hit “hard” as the GM with the fiction)…
But let’s try to keep it short and open to a discussion:
- I personally would not inflict Unstable until the player gets to Health -1, but…
- the Roc sounds scary; did they roll some Face Danger?
- the Roc sounds like a huge monster? did they roll Face Death instead of Face Danger?
- what was (if you recall) the result of the Suffer Harm move for the character?
Situations like “scary descriptions meet 1 single (lame) damage point” are very rare when other moves get involved and not just Engage in Battle.

You will notice that you should get plenty of material for your harm/fight staging and descriptions from moves like Face Danger/Death, Inflict/Suffer harm…
Face Death is a great tool, as GM, when you describe a situation which is extremely dangerous and where it looks to you like it’s very, very unlikely that someone would walk away unharmed. In mechanical terms, Face Death is a bitch of a move - there is no easy way out, it’s not like Face Danger.